Amelia Island, only 13 miles long and less than five miles wide, is home to Amelia Island Plantation, a AAA-Four Diamond, 1,350 acre resort nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the marshlands of the Intracoastal Waterway. A commitment to nature and expansive amenities, including three and a half miles of beach, 23 tennis courts, a fitness center, full-service spa and salon, biking, 10 dining options and more, combine to create a true resort experience for guests.
When developed in 1971, Amelia Island Plantation set a new standard for resorts, and its tagline, "In Harmony with Nature," still rings true. The master developers, Charles Fraser and the Sea Pines Co. of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Ian McHarg of Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd, made it their mission to find the optimum fit between man's habitat and the existing natural environment, including animal life and plant ecology on this fragile barrier island in Northeast Florida. The result was a master plan to protect tidal marshes and to conserve oceanfront dunes, grassland and savannahs. An unprecedented 40-foot wide strip of natural vegetation was added as a buffer to all waterways allowing them to remain wildlife refuges, travel corridors, and food sources. In order to protect these standards, covenants were established that the resort company and property owners must adhere to in order to build and live here. Each building, courtyard, terrace, or boardwalk is placed with the natural environment in mind, making sure that each structure is set within nature's arms instead of distracting from it. The philosophy that each entity on the resort "embraces its site and becomes one with it" is still the mission and the reason Amelia Island Plantation has remained the pristine environment that it is.
The philosophy is evident throughout the resort. For example, the driving range features a large tree in its center, something that may frustrate a few golfers who have a great drive interrupted. But that tree was there first, so it remains.
Amelia Island Plantation encourages all resort guests to take advantage of this natural environment. A wide variety of guided environmental tours with staff naturalists provide a hands-on experience to all ages. The resort's Nature Center, established in 1997, has grown to incorporate several staff naturalists with backgrounds in biology, ecotourism, and environmental studies.
One fairly unique offering is Segway Personal Transporter guided tours. The tours allow guests to cover the resort's extensive grounds without fatigue, free from the hassles of traffic and parking associated with driving. In keeping with the resort's harmony with nature, the devices are environmentally friendly, emitting no pollution and virtually no noise. Each tour begins with a training video on the Segway, then the group moves outside where tour leaders work with riders to teach them how to safely ride the Segway PT.
In addition to revenue from the tours, which cost about $80 per person, the resort is an authorized Segway dealer. Another revenue source at this venue is a fully stocked retail shop, complete with top-of-the-line binoculars, field guides, and bird feeders to fulfill guests' exploring needs.
Amelia Island Plantation is the winner of numerous prestigious awards, including the "Gold Medal" from Golf Magazine, the "Top 75 Resort Courses in the U.S." from Golf Digest, and Links Magazine's "Best of the South" award. The resort offers 72 championship holes, including courses designed by Pete Dye and Bobby Weed, Tom Fazio, and Tom Jackson. The courses include ocean views, marshlands, palms, pines, sand dunes, and wax myrtles. Keeping with the owner's environmental sensitivity, Amelia's courses were designed with the environment in mind. Coquina shell cart paths are mostly used throughout and a majority of the water used to irrigate greens and fairways is recycled water. Most of the area provides a habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Director of Golf Robert Dugger oversees a full range of instruction, including lessons for the whole family to enjoy together.
The Amelia Island Plantation tennis program has been recognized as one of the finest in the world, offering a variety of tournaments and facilities that cater to the whole family and every level of play. The resort's 23 Har-Tru, fast-dry clay courts are shaded beneath majestic live oaks in a beautiful Florida setting. The center hosts the Women's Tennis Association's Bausch & Lomb Championships each spring.
Spa and Salon
The Spa at Amelia Island Plantation makes it easy for guests to indulge in a little pampering. The 13,200-square-foot spa features 25 treatment rooms, a meditation garden and soothing views of moss-draped oaks and lagoons. Product lines include Aveda in the salon, Anakiri facials and Pure Fiji in the spa.
The resort contains 361 ocean- and resort-view hotel rooms, as well as one, two, and three-bedroom villas. Many have ocean views or line the fairways of the golf courses, while others adjoin the tennis courts at Racquet Park or overlook the relaxing marsh. Each villa is unique, and most feature fully equipped kitchens, dining areas, spacious living rooms, multiple baths and private bedrooms. Most villa complexes have at least one pool.
The resort also offers whole-ownership residences, whose owners can purchase a resort membership to enjoy all the amenities.
The extensive grounds and amenities do create some challenges for resort staff. Greg Curtis, director of security, oversees resort access, including seven gates, two with 24-hour staffing. "We have 800 to 900 cars or more almost every day," he says. Some resort amenities, such as the spa, can be accessed directly from outside the resort. Guests wishing to ride the tram back to their accommodations from these amenities must show a membership card or resort pass to ride.
Scott Muir, Director of Lodging, has worked with SafLok to ensure that staff and guests all have appropriate access from their key cards. "With the SafLok system, I can assign levels of access based on job responsibilities," he says. "For example, I can give housekeepers access to a certain block of rooms, but I have access to the entire resort. The keys can be interrogated to determine each person who has entered a room." A mystery shopper program is in place to verify that staff follows proper procedures when guests report stolen keys or ask for another guest's room number.
Other security concerns stem from the needs of high-profile guests who stay here, such as former President Clinton or NFL team owners during the 2007 Super Bowl. Muir says only a handful of staffers know when a celebrity is expected, and all staff is trained to respect all guests' privacy by not requesting autographs.